Thanksgiving is almost here! And that means many of us will inevitably get into conversations with loved ones who hold differing opinions about climate change. This year in particular, folks around the country have experienced significant weather events. So many of us have personal experiences we can speak to during this time. Yet as we continue to experience these first-ever events, tensions are only increasing thanks to growing political polarization that positions climate change as a pivotal culture war issue.
This is why, Climate Access hosted a roundtable panel discussion on how to approach Thanksgiving conversations with empathy, understanding, and effective communication. Our panel of experts provided practical tips and real-world examples for engaging in peer-based dialogues to find common ground, address misconceptions, and craft persuasive messages that encourage involvement in solutions.
Panelists included: Arunima Krishna (Associate Professor, Boston University) and Karin Kirk (Geologist & Science Writer). The conversation was moderated by Meredith Herr (Deputy Director, Climate Access). Here are some key tips from our roundtable:
Engage loved ones by listening first. Listen to what folks are saying and what pieces of misinformation they’ve been exposed to. This is crucial because there are so many different pieces of misinformation that are being targeted to various groups across the country and the world.
Bring your experiences to the conversation and bring it home. This will be harder to argue against than information. You can speak to the changes your community is experiencing and the positive aspect of things like renewable energy has had in your experience.
Feel-good stories about community-driven successes are very powerful. For example, stories about how individuals were able to convince a community to start a composting system that reduces their trash bills.
Ask them questions about their opinions. Ask them where their opinion is coming from, where they got their information, and who benefits from this kind of information.
Ask them questions about climate action. What is climate action trying to do? It’s trying to get us cleaner air, cheaper electricity, cleaner water. What is the harm in that? What is the downside of it?
More information from our panelists:
What Conversations with Voters Taught me About Science Communications, Scientific American Distillation of lessons learned after a major effort to talk to hundreds of Montana voters in 2020.
NASA's Global Climate Vital Signs User-friendly, up-to-date data and explainers. “Email us and ask questions! We always answer our email.”
Yale Climate Connections Index to all of Karin Kirk’s articles and data-graphics. Explainers, mythbusting, data maps. Older articles explore climate conversations with many different audiences.
Lacuna publics: advancing a typology of disinformation-susceptible publics using the motivation-attitude-knowledge framework Academic study of disinformation-susceptible individual.
Boston University College of Communication Links to more of Arunima Krishna’s research on understanding public perceptions of controversial social issues.